It is startling how quickly things can change.
At the beginning of last week, I was teaching my classes and working comfortably in my advising job. Students were coming in to see me, since we’re coming up on summer registration and they’re expected to see me once a month anyway. Plus the usual crises that students have – solving those, or at least figuring out ways for students to cope with them, is literally part of my job description. Oliver was home on Spring Break and looking forward to one more week of sleeping in before heading back for his own classes. Kim had spent the weekend before hosting labs at Home Campus – her online chemistry class usually gets together for two weekends per semester to do all the labs at the same time – and was working from home and preparing for her usual week commuting to Madison for her admin job. Lauren was in Europe on her exchange program. She had hit the point in the exchange year where she was comfortable with the language and the setting and was enjoying herself immensely.
None of that holds now.
All of our campuses are closed. I teach on or for four different campuses and every one of them is shut down right now and will be for at least a couple of weeks, whereupon things will be re-evaluated. By that point all of my classes should be online for a couple more weeks. Several of them are already online classes and they are relatively unaffected by the shutdowns, and I have built online classes before so I’m in pretty good shape for the other classes, though I have no idea how it will go in the broader sense. We spent much of last week having advisor meetings trying to figure out how to provide services to our students in this interval as well, and it’s been an experience all around.
Kim’s office basically told her to work from home, so she’s set up for that now.
Oliver’s school extended its spring break as well and said the next month of classes would be online. He made a quick drive down to the campus to collect stuff out of his dorm room – stuff he thought he’d be coming back to once classes resumed – and is ready to ride that out here with us.
And Lauren’s program pulled everyone out this week.
We got word of this early Thursday morning – the parent Facebook page blew up and the whole day was just trying to find out what was happening when. We spoke with her and her host family, who seem like just lovely people and we hope to meet them someday soon, after all this recedes, and on Friday she was in the air. Kim picked her up in Chicago, along with friends of ours whose vacation got cut short, and she’s home now.
To be honest I still think Lauren would have been safer sheltering in place where she was, in a country with a national health care system and a government that understands this is a medical issue rather than a campaign issue, rather than get put on a plane with all sorts of strangers coming from all sorts of places and run through two major airports full of exposure risks, but it wasn’t our call. I’m just heartsick that she had to get yanked away from her friends and life there.
Of course now we’re all in self-quarantine. The CDC and our local county health service both said that travelers from Europe need to stay home for two weeks to clear the incubation period. If we wanted to avoid that ourselves we would have had to isolate Lauren in her room during that time but that seemed callous, so we’re all home.
Of all of us I’m probably the best suited for this sort of thing, really. Very early on in our relationship Kim had to explain to me what cabin fever was and why it was bad. “You mean I stay home with my books and my tea and I don’t have to leave and nobody bothers me and this is a problem … why?” She married me anyway, folks. It’s harder on the rest but it’s one of those things that has to be done so we do it.
We’re well stocked – I moved up my normal grocery run and we will not run out of food or supplies between now and when we get to go out and about again. We’re actually allowed to leave the house as long as we don’t interact with anyone or go anywhere other people go, so my big excursion yesterday was to feed the chickens out at the barn. The chickens don’t care about the wider world. They get fed. They lay eggs. Lawsey do they lay eggs. We have a lot of eggs. We’ll be fine.
We had plans to see the Local Businessman High School musical this weekend, before everything changed. They put on some impressive shows, and we were sorry to figure out that with everything else going on we wouldn’t be able to go and then they had to cancel the shows anyway, and then the governor shut down all the schools until next month just to reinforce the point. But they figured out a way to livestream a performance, so with a few family members for an audience they got up on stage and sent it out to the rest of us last night. It was well done, and I’m glad that the show went on.
You take what normalcy you can.